Kusal Mendis is the prototype for a national cricket star in the making in the age of social media. When Mendis, the diminutive designated flag-bearer of the national cricket team hits the sweet spot, social media goes into top gear. When he fails, which he has shown the penchant of doing as often as he has smashed everything around in disdain, social media is on hyper-drive.
Social media impact on the young cricketer is evident. “He was really feeling the pressure, he was thinking about the social media and everything,” his captain Dimuth Karunarathne said soon after Mendis had flayed the best fast bowling attack in town to canter Sri Lanka to victory in the second Test against South Africa.
- When you get caricatured in memes, the effect can be as close as how far your mobile phone is from your face
- I tweeted as much, and was left even more surprised when the tweet was liked over 200 times
- When Mendis, hits the sweet spot, social media goes into top gear.
- Social media brings the game closer, makes it more intimate, when players come out with their emotions
When you get caricatured in memes, the effect can be as close as how far your mobile phone is from your face. And you may be a cracker of a batsman, but still will be looking at that nasty meme all alone sitting on the loo. The criticism does not trickle towards you from word of mouth or through the grapevine, that is passé. It hits you smack on your face in one swipe.
Cricket has always had its share of players and others who create the hype with that one soundbite. Four decades back Tony Greig, the then captain of England but of South African origin cockily remarked “I intend to make them grovel,” as the West Indian team landed in England. The quote and the aftermath of the walloping Greig and Co got are stuff of lore now.
But just imagine if the very same quote was uttered today via a tweet or Facebook post. And the hype when Greig got down on his hand and knees and pretended to crawl at the end of the last test.
If Mendis was the toast last weekend of Sri Lanka cricket fans on social media, then former South Africa captain AB de Villiers was at the opposite end. Last year de Villiers had earned the wrath of the Sri Lankans by his catty remark of playing Sri Lanka was like playing in the off season. Retired and currently playing in Pakistan Super League, de Villiers was roasted on twitter.
Social media has become a key component of cricket commentary, much of it coming from fans. Much like the days when fans were glued to their transistor radios to listen to match commentaries, just that one hand held device has replaced another.
A weekend newspaper commentary on the game thought it vital that it included day-old related tweets from ex-players and commentators, rather than a colour piece or expert analysis.
Soon after the South Africa series win, I was startled to hear loud crackers going off in the neighbourhood. I tweeted as much, and was left even more surprised when the tweet was liked over 200 times.
Social media has become a key component of cricket commentary, much of it coming from fans. Much like the days when fans were glued to their transistor radios to listen to match commentaries
There is also the side of social media marketing as big business. Even Mendis with his relatively modest number of twitter followers endorses products, without clear clarification on sponsorship details.
Cricket has always been a defining, unifying and segregating factor in equal measure. Either you love the game and all that comes with it, or you simply abhor it. I can still recall a time during the height of the war, when seasoned reporters would remark that the Tigers never attacked during days when Sri Lanka played – something that held true till the 2007 World Cup final, when Tiger planes came over Colombo glued to TV sets.
Now the views, counter views, snarls and gibes, from the players, administrators, retired players, commentators, arm-chair pundits and the fans all come in one mix. This mishmash of all things cricket adds to the beauty of the game, which has lost so much to the multi-million dollar commercialization on the heels of the 20/20 riches.
Social media brings the game closer, makes it more intimate, when players come out with their emotions midst of promoting bats, balls and ball guards. And yes, everyone else also joins in.
The author is the Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the DART Centre for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School.
Twitter - @amanthap